We love shopping. I mean really, we love fashion and the joy it brings us - that is in essence why we set up Gather&See - to spread that joy and offer an ethical alternative. But there is no joy to be found in Black Friday. Battling the crowds, joining the stampede and elbowing fellow shoppers out of the way just to get your hands on a marked down electrical appliance you don't need is not a shopping experience I want to have.
Black Friday is an American retail tradition based around Thanksgiving that has only recently made it over to British shores. It has no relevance whatsoever to any kind of British holiday and yet somehow savvy marketeers have managed to build it into a sale phenomenon, luring in customers with big discounts just before Christmas. The resulting scenes are nothing short of shocking - actual fisticuffs breaking out in supermarket aisles, police guards on the doors of high street retailers, some of the biggest web retailers sites going down due to high demand. There is a sense of chaos and drama that the marketing teams seem to actually encourage.
Gather&See is all about offering something to a conscious consumer - Black Friday harnesses the worst in unconscious consumerism. Its a mass marketing campaign on steroids - buy more, cheaper and faster. Whether you have the money or not. Whether you need it or not. Whether you know anything about the products provenance or not. The whole idea of it highlights the major problem behind fast consumerism and fast fashion - we aren't thinking enough about what we are buying or caring enough about it. If it is so cheap we don't care whether we wear it or throw it in the bin (ahem 300,000 tonnes of clothing in landfills a year). We are too blindsided by the price tag to question who made it and how it came to be so cheap in the first place - prices this low have to come at the expense of someone- most commonly those near the bottom of the supply chain.
We offer pieces that have a wonderful stories that we want our customers to know and understand. The prices reflect the hard work, craftsmanship and fair working environments behind the products. Small retailers like Gather&See simply can't afford to compete with these big brand price drops. We have to be careful not to edge small independents out with these kind of sales if we want any kind of variety or choice in our retail landcape other than the mass produced. Our products are unique and carefully curated - they are to be cherished and loved, and we hope our customers buy because they understand and appreciate the product, not because we have slashed our prices and they can snap up a bargain.
This year Patagonia, the outdoor clothing company, has stated that it will donate all proceeds from sales on Black Friday to grassroots environmental groups. It is in part a stand against Black Friday as a concept and in part a stand against President-Elect Trump's less than favourable stance on climate change. What a refreshing approach from a million dollar business. Now if only others would follow the lead.